The Communications Cable and Connectivity Association, Inc. (CCCA) has published a new white paper that examines the possible legal liabilities of manufacturers and contractors who install multi-conductor communications cable made with copper-clad aluminum conductors. The white paper is intended to educate and answer questions about the legal risks assumed by installers of communications cables that are specifically not allowed by the National Electrical Code.

In addition to being prohibited by the National Electrical Code (NEC), communications cables made with copper-clad aluminum conductors are also in direct violation of industry standards that specify requirements for Category cables and are in violation of the UL 444 standard for multi-conductor communications cables. Such cables are not eligible to receive a fire safety listing from UL, or any other independent testing agency.

”After more research into copper-clad aluminum cables, we felt a further analysis of the legal risks was needed to complement our previous white paper on potential liabilities from non-compliant cables," states CCCA Executive Director Frank Peri. "Our research indicated that many contractors are not aware that cables marked as Category 5e or 6 and made with copper clad aluminum conductors cannot be legally installed into any area that requires a National Electrical Code fire safety rating. We want to educate and alert contractors who may not realize that they are assuming significant risk when they install these cable that are improperly labeled as “Category” and bear markings implying a fire safety rating such as CM, CMR, or CMP.”

The NEC, which has been incorporated into law for virtually all states and local municipalities of the United States, defines requirements for cables installed in buildings, residences and other structures. Any installation of multi-conductor communication cables made with copper-clad aluminum conductors behind walls or in enclosed spaces is likely to be a code violation in every jurisdiction in the United States. Jurisdictions in Canada, which often mirror those in the United States., may similarly declare code violations. The new white paper, prepared by the Washington D.C.-based law firm Crowell and Moring, describes possible legal risks to contractors and manufacturers, including charges of: breach of contract and warranty, false advertising, violation of state consumer protection acts, and misrepresentation.

“We are concerned that sales of cables made with copper-clad aluminum may be growing because they are much cheaper to produce than cable products designed to comply with industry standards and fire safety codes,“ says Peri. “Copper-clad aluminum cables are another attempt by certain manufacturers to mislead contractors and users and risk public safety for the purpose of greater profits.”

UL recently issued a public notice warning of one specific company found to be selling communications cable made with copper-clad aluminum conductors. The September 17, 2012, UL notice alerted the public that the unauthorized manufacturer’s cable “… bears a counterfeit UL Mark for the United States and may pose a fire hazard.”

The CCCA is conducting further research into the prevalence of this problem and is very interested in collecting information on specific cabling projects lost to copper-clad aluminum communications cables. Interested parties are invited to submit information on cables that contain copper clad aluminum conductors, are improperly labeled as Category 3, 5e, 6, or 6A, and bear a fire safety mark, such as CM, CMX, CMR, or CMP. Please email this information to CCCA Executive Director Frank Peri at fperi@cccassoc.org. The CCCA continues to believe that buying quality, name-brand cables is the best practice to assure compliance to fire safety requirements.